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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

thanksgiving memories: Young Submarine Brothers

i've posted this other places before. it lives in a couple of archives on the web on various submarine related sites. since thanksgiving is a time for memories as well as feasting, i trot out my old essay from some time ago.

click for larger image

Everybody experiences one of those days in their life. Away from home, away from the family and friends that you grew up with. Away from everything that makes holidays the special times they are.
Thanksgiving, 1975. I was a freshly qualified submariner, dolphins proudly worn for only a couple of weeks. An "old" man of 21 years. Homesick, lonely, glad to be back in port. We had just returned to our home port of Mare Island after an extended underway. Some of us had leave, but the junior guys, like me, didn't have a prayer of getting time away from the boat. Nubs (new guys, or at least junior guys) always had to take leave during the non-holiday periods. Somebody had to stick around and keep the plant safe, or so the Navy thought. So what to do during the holidays?
Fortunately for me, there were enough jocks around that a good rousing game of "touch" football [defined as "you're out when you get slammed and tackled by the opposing team, and you touch the ground] was planned for the pre-dinner hours. Garbage Bowl '75 was on. We had enough players to scrape together two teams, THE CONERS and THE NUC'S. Who played on the coner team is lost to memory, but the picture of THE NUC'S shows a hardy band of youngsters. It's almost impossible to figure out what happened to the time, after looking at those young bucks, lined up for the "official" team picture. We all had a lot more hair, and a lot less waistline in those days!
The game was played on the parade field in front of the Marine barracks. The usual friendly rivalries between the non-nucs and the nucs generated some spectacular tackles. The quarterbacking was at least on par with the best of the pros, and the game strategy was bone simple....get touchdowns, and keep the other guys from doing the same.
The day was wonderful. We played, we rehashed, we embellished, until the most mediocre move was transformed into a graceful sidestep within an hour of completing the game. Those of us that didn't have a home to go to drifted to the boat. There, we replayed the game for the guys on duty, laughing about the pratfalls, and exaggerating our prowess and skills, as required by the guy code. We had come back to the boat to be with the only family we had available. We came back to share with those that couldn't be there, to help ease the isolation we all felt.
Dinner was served, and the one thing I can say about the boat is that they took a lot of effort to insure that even though we couldn't be home for the holidays, at least we would be able to have a traditional dinner with all of the fixings. Some of the crew had their families down on the boat for dinner. Although none of us would have admitted it, and even groused about there being kids underfoot, we loved having the sound of children laughing around during dinner. We may not have been home with our moms and dads, our brothers and sisters, grandparents, or any of the rest of our families, but we had our families with us there on the mess decks. We had our brothers and their families. It was enough.

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